The Road to Mindfulness – Reaping the Rewards from Cultivating the Practice

By: Brenda de Borja

Gautama Buddha succinctly describes the essence of mindfulness in this quote, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” Mindfulness was borne from Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism but has spread to Western culture in secular practice. In 1979, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, often considered the ‘father of mindfulness’ in the western world, had a vision to scientifically prove the impact of mindfulness and foster its application in society. He helped kickstart the movement with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), an 8-week course initially developed for people with pain management issues. Since its introduction, MBSR has been shown to alleviate depression, anxiety, and other health ailments. Recognizing the mind’s power and shifting to a present mindset (as opposed to wandering in the past or the future) can reap innumerable benefits for both the individual and their workplace.

Mindfulness promotes well-being and is the impetus to resiliency and compassion towards the self. Living and experiencing the present, without judgment, builds awareness of your actions, reasoning, emotions, and subsequently, an understanding thereof. Visualize this as being an observer, “an outsider looking in,” to your whole being. An understanding of self translates to self-care (self-acceptance, love, and kindness) and an increase in your degree of happiness. In recognizing your strengths, accepting present limitations, and working on self-improvement, you build resiliency and find the motivation to focus and pursue your goals and interests. Researchers Badri Bajaj and Neerja Pander drew findings that “mindfulness training could provide a practical means of enhancing resilience, and personality characteristics like optimism, zest, and patience… Mindful people … can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down (emotionally)…Pausing and observing the mind may (help us) resist getting drawn into wallowing in a setback.”

Though research is still limited, organizations are starting to recognize that mindfulness affects employee performance and well-being. By instilling a positive work environment, management reaps the benefits of improved social relationships, manifested specifically in empathy and response flexibility. Mindful leadership also minimizes stressors, boosts creativity, encourages more transparent communications, and improves employees’ task commitment, thus improving overall work enjoyment (Positive Psychology, 10-13-2020). Yellow Brick embraces the practice of mindfulness by encouraging lifelong learning, supporting employee goals, recognizing achievements, and rallying each team member to venture out of their comfort zone and try something different. In return, employees promise to treat each other with respect and value others’ contributions, uphold Yellow Brick’s values, and always do everything to the best of their abilities and take care of the responsibilities entrusted to them.

How Leaders Encourage Mindfulness in the Workplace

In 2018, the Forbes Coaches Council provided suggestions to encourage mindfulness in the workplace.

  • Lead by example – practice mindfulness, and the rest will follow.
  • Give your people time to dream – 100% focus every minute of the working day is impossible. Give your employees the space to be distracted. Creativity sometimes springs from the most unlikely circumstances.
  • Look at your response from another’s point of view – think before you speak.
  • Ask challenging questions that challenge employees to act and think.
  • Get up and take a break, away from your desk.
  • Raise the level of consciousness about the practice at work.
  • Breathe!
  • Notice the little things around you – show appreciation for a clean workspace, a complete report, etc.
  • Lead with emotional connection – show compassion and understanding of the reality of others.
  • Allow gaps between meetings.
  • Allow yourself to slow down.
  • Do not micro-manage. It stifles creativity and independent thinking.
  • Incorporate mindfulness into meetings: meditate, set intentions, take a breath.
  • Start a conversation on mindfulness.

How Employees Can Practice Mindfulness at Work

Employees can practice mindfulness by being consciously present to focus on the work at hand with an open mind, no distractions, and no judgment. Although multitasking was once a word almost always expected on resumes, the Applied Psychology page from the University of Southern California website reads, “New studies…have found that multitasking is no longer a skill to brag about but to worry about. … multitasking causes us to actually make more mistakes, retain less information, and change the way our brain works.” Mindfulness teaches you to be kind to yourself and to address your inner critic.

When checking email, determine what’s essential and what’s noise. Be an active listener, quiet your internal distractions, and you will strengthen your work relationships in the process.

If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul~Rabbi Harold Kushner

Embracing Mindfulness at Home

It is important to mindfully unwind and unplug at the end of the workday so that you can entirely focus on your home life. Finally, practice gratitude. In the book, The Magic, author Rhonda Byrne writes about developing a mindset of gratitude and appreciation for every facet of life (relationships, health, finances, goals, employment, etc.).  Regard negative occurrences as learning experiences and opportunities for growth.

The use of meditation apps has increased in popularity over the years. One of our team’s favorites is the Calm meditation app. Downloaded more than 50 million times, this app offers meditation more specific to soothing what you have going on, walking meditations, body scans, master classes, and sleep stories. Short on time? Aura is for busy bees and offers a collection of 3-minute sessions and 30-second anxiety busters. Headspace, another popular choice, has guided courses, quick meditations, and sleep music and soundscapes to help with sleep. This meditation app also suggests taking regular mindful breaks to breathe, and to a greater degree, when you’re starting to feel stressed.